In my previous blog post on cloud, I mentioned how COVID-19 has accelerated digital transformations all around the world. While this development is extremely positive for all of us working with cloud, it has simultaneously revived and highlighted a fundamental cloud-related problem; the demand for advanced cloud competencies has skyrocketed, but the supply of cloud talents is unable to keep up – and has been for quite some time.
This discrepancy between supply and demand is a critical problem to solve if businesses and industries are to maximise the benefits they realise from cloud and unleash the true transformative power of this technology. To avoid that the imbalance between supply and demand becomes a hindrance for businesses, we need to find a solution that allows the digital transformation of businesses to flourish even in the current environment.
From my perspective, one solution is found in the intersection between conducting proactive talent care and development, adapting your organisation to operate in a new digital reality and finding a business partner that not only complements your existing cloud capabilities but is also committed to upskilling your existing workforce.
New realities call for new priorities
Cloud is new technology, but it is not disconnected from traditional IT. Consequently, to be successful in your cloud adoption, you need to have people in your organisation that understand the old and the new digital world and you need the people possessing these skills to work in symbiosis.
To increase your chances of a trouble-free cloud adoption, you need to adjust your IT operating model to reflect the new reality. This entails adjusting your architecture and operations, governance and controls and finally ensure a cloud-aligned organisation. A cloud-aligned organisation has clear roles and responsibilities within the organisation and with strategic sourcing partners. Whether you insource or outsource, cloud requires your organisation to have a clear sourcing strategy, (multi-) vendor management and possession of the necessary cloud-native skills to take your business from where you are to where you want to be.
The acquisition of these competencies, which are necessary to advance your transformation and eventually fine-tune your cloud set-up and IT operating model, is highly influenced by the discrepancy between the cloud talent supply and demand. For quite some time, we have experienced what is known as the cloud talent drought.
The cloud talent drought
Cloud requires competencies that in most of today’s companies are either scarce or inexistent. Talents that possess the right combination of business and technical capabilities, a collaborative mindset and a holistic understanding of cloud as a business enabler are hard to find, leading businesses to fight tooth and nail to attract these profiles. As a result of their inability to attract the right talents, we often see businesses taking other approaches to acquire the required cloud skills.
Some businesses outsource significant activities, which offers the advantage of having quick and ‘unlimited’ access to skills but the disadvantage of lacking internal upskilling, modernisation and transformation along the way (unless included in a very specific agreement with the sourcing partner). Others insource all activities, developing their talents to handle the tasks at hand but this approach requires a lot of time, training and trial and error, and it slows the transformation down. Finally, we see organisations venturing into using cloud technologies without having the necessary structure or competencies in place, only to readjust their set-up when the costs go up and governance fails, and outcomes decline. So which should you choose?
To avoid the latter scenario and before continuing the cloud transformation, businesses need to get a clear understanding of where they are, where they are going and, not least, what makes them an attractive employer for the much sought-after cloud-savvy profiles. This way, businesses can build the right team to successfully deliver their transformation.
How to boost your cloud transformation
Like many other things, successful cloud transformation can be done in more than one way. The right approach depends on the situation, the task at hand and the organisation.
However, before your organisation moves to cloud, it is crucial that you are willing to involve yourself in the process and understands what kind of competencies are needed to make it a successful transformation. This exercise involves conducting an as-is assessment of your existing cloud competencies, infrastructure, governance, architecture and operations to get a deeper understanding of your current set-up, while also defining a to-be organisational state based on a good understanding of where you want to go and what skills-mix you need in order to get there.
Another part of the process is to understand that several existing tasks will lose relevance as new ones will appear. In the process of understanding this change, it is instrumental to realise that not all tasks need the same attention. Focus on what gets your organisation the best bang for the buck, in other words, focus on the tasks that strategically are most important to your organisation. As a rule of thumb, you should keep these tasks in-house and outsource those of lower strategic importance.
In relation to this, and to answer the question about whether to upskill, hire or outsource, my advice is to find just the right balance between all three approaches.
There are too many downsides to adhering to only one of these approaches. Instead, by working intelligently with all three approaches, you can hit the sweet spot between speed of transformation, time spent and upskilling your talents.
Finally, and me suggesting this will hardly surprise you, it has proven very beneficial for organisations to find an external partner that complements the organisation’s existing capabilities, one that has been involved in cloud transformations before and has the knowledge and resources available to educate and upskill the existing workforce. By finding the right partner, not only are you offered a sounding board to guide you through the process, you also futureproof your business and secure access to skills that may be difficult to find when you need them.
Embracing the cloud is associated with a lot of effort, costs and prioritisation, not least at C-level, and dealing with the cloud talent drought is key to making your cloud-enabled business transformation a success. Only with the right skills at hand are you able to boost your cloud transformation, unleash this technology’s full transformative power and move forward at pace.
To sum up, my most important points are: